Helen Martin: Wise to revisit abortion rules

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TERMINATION, abortion, call it what you will, is one of those subjects that polarises opinion and causes arguments among families and friends, churches, philosophers, sociologists, medics and, of course, women.

Any suggestion that it should be limited or more tightly controlled unleashes a stormy battle between those who believe an unborn child is part of a woman’s body and therefore hers to do with as she pleases, and those who take the extreme opposing view that all life is sacrosanct and the woman has no rights at all.

Finding the middle ground amid such clamouring voices is no easy matter but Health Minister Alex Neil is certainly right to suggest we should think about reducing the time within which a pregnant woman can ask for a termination from the current 24-week limit.

The average time from ovulation to birth is now 38 weeks and two days which means a foetus may be two-thirds of the way towards birth.

Last week came the news that a baby who was born in Warwickshire at the end of August last year after just 23 weeks gestation is now thriving, other than being a little small for his age and short-sighted.

Medical advances in many areas mean we constantly have to reassess the impact of diseases, interventions and treatment not to mention social needs, economics and pensions. Nothing stays the same and nor should it.

Of course women should have a choice as to whether or not they proceed with a pregnancy. Accidents happen, rapes happen, and in a world of food banks and minimum wages, some may feel it is not right to bring a child into the world knowing only poverty awaits it.

But it is the most urgent and pressing life-threatening decision any woman may ever have to take and they must make it within the time frame a reasonable society sets. The mother-to-be or not-to-be will be asleep during the gruesome process of a later termination. She will not have to witness the dismemberment – and that’s all the detail I care to mention. Others in the operating theatre have to face that harrowing experience.

The old-fashioned feminists must move with the times. Today women have the morning-after pill, something that wasn’t available in 1967 when the Abortion Act came into being. Pregnancy tests now give instant and fairly reliable results. And a foetus is now viable much earlier than ever before.

All these things must be taken into account along with a woman’s right to choose. And saying it is her decision doesn’t mean she can take as long as she likes to make it.

There are awful pressures on a woman coping with an unwanted pregnancy but having found a solution, albeit a drastic one, society has gone on to adopt an outrageously casual approach to intentionally and surgically aborting our own young.

We must revisit the rules from time to time, change them when necessary, and support women to make up their minds sooner rather than later.

Fracking’s not for us

WE’RE all being asked for our views on new Scottish powers. Our unspoiled rural landscape and wildlife are prized assets for farming and tourism as our rivers are for angling and whisky production. In Scotland, there is no place for fracking. Our Parliament needs the ability to ban it – now.

Technology’s giving us the blues

SO now we know that short-wave blue light – the sort emitted by iPads, smart phones and screened gadgets – disrupts sleep, alters our metabolism and makes us fat because it prevents production of hormones which regulate converting food and drink to energy. We need pitch-black darkness to function properly and even street lights shining through the curtains can cause us problems.

It’s so damaging experts now warn we should be turning off all these gizmos for two hours before bed and shouldn’t have them in the bedroom at all. Blue light keeps us buzzing and can cause cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

Given the number of people who have flat screen TVs or PCs in the bedroom and even fall asleep while they’re on, the obesity epidemic could be more than over-eating.

But if weaning us all off sugar and fat was tough, ditching the technology could be impossible.

Capital turkeys stick together

COUNCIL chief exec Sue Bruce and transport convener Lesley Hinds won a special prize at the Light Rail Awards for finally getting the trams on track. Actually, it does make you wonder how big the field of competitors for “light rail” awards is in the UK.

But since the chairman of the judging panel was one Professor David Begg, late of this parish, arch-widener of pavements and narrower of roads, publisher of Transport Times, probably born with a silver train set in his mouth, and likely to support a tram track round Blackford pond and a furnicular up the hill, if anyone was daft enough to pay for it, it is hardly surprising the pair won an award for this embarrassing, ruinous and useless project which left our budgets broke and roads in tatters.

They might not vote for Christmas but this would suggest our biggest turkeys are perfectly capable of voting for each other.